During a discussion in the Lok Sabha regarding the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya and its consecration ceremony on January 22, Home Minister Amit Shah emphasized Prime Minister Narendra Modi's inclusive approach to the Ram temple issue, asserting that Modi unified all sections of society. He described the Supreme Court's verdict on the matter as a testament to India's secular character on the global stage.
Shah commended the perseverance of all those involved in the prolonged struggle for the Ram temple, highlighting the historical and legal battles dating back to 1528 and 1858, respectively. He emphasized that the conclusion of this struggle on January 22 symbolized a rejuvenation of India's faith and marked the commencement of a significant journey for the nation.
According to Shah, the construction of the Ram temple signifies a transition from struggle to devotion, reflecting on the religious discipline Modi exhibited during the 11-day run-up to the consecration ceremony. He refuted criticisms aimed at the BJP's electoral promises, citing the successful implementation of policies such as the ban on triple talaq as evidence of the Modi government's commitment to its pledges.
Shah underscored the inseparable connection between India's culture and the Ramayana, emphasizing that the 300-year-long struggle culminated in the inauguration of the Ram Mandir. He envisioned January 22 as the dawn of a new era for India, positioning the nation on the path to global leadership.
Expressing confidence in the Modi government's prospects for re-election in 2024, Shah reiterated that the Ram Mandir was constructed in Ayodhya in accordance with legal and constitutional mandates, fostering a harmonious environment devoid of political slogans during the consecration ceremony.
Addressing critics, Shah urged them to respect the overwhelming popular sentiment surrounding the issue and refrain from disrupting the atmosphere of joy and devotion. He paid tribute to BJP veteran L K Advani for his role in raising awareness through the 'Rath Yatra,' which, alongside Modi's leadership, ultimately fulfilled the aspirations of the people. Shah concluded by urging unity and progress, emphasizing the significance of accepting the message of unity and moving forward as a nation.
The recent elections in Pakistan, marred by delayed results and militant attacks, have led to conflicting claims of victory from former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, intensifying the country's political turmoil. Sharif's party secured the most seats among single parties, but supporters of Khan, who contested as independents due to his party's disqualification, collectively won the majority of seats.
Sharif conceded that his party lacked a clear majority and announced plans to engage in coalition talks with other groups to form a government. This decision followed a prolonged delay in announcing results, with over three-quarters of the seats declared more than 24 hours after polling ended, amidst militant attacks that claimed 28 lives.
The election outcome, characterized by a fragmented distribution of seats, saw independent candidates, many supported by Khan, securing the highest number of seats, followed by Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People's Party led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The remaining seats were won by smaller parties and independent candidates.
This electoral scenario, marked by uncertainty and a polarized political environment, has added to Pakistan's challenges, including economic recovery efforts and combating rising militancy. Analysts had anticipated a lack of a clear winner, reflecting the country's deep political divisions and ongoing struggles.
Russia accused the United States of aggression against Iraq and Syria, alleging it aimed to maintain global dominance and bolster the Biden administration's image before US elections. The US countered, asserting its military responses to attacks by Iranian-backed proxies were legal and necessary for self-defense. The accusations were exchanged during a contentious UN Security Council meeting called by Russia, Syria's ally, where concerns were raised about the Israel-Hamas conflict spilling over.
Russia accused the US of violating international law and sowing chaos in the Middle East, while the US defended its actions as necessary to protect American forces. Iran rejected claims of orchestrating attacks, emphasizing the independence of regional resistance groups. The UN political chief urged all parties to consider the human and economic costs of escalating tensions and called for a ceasefire and political roadmap to peace. China echoed concerns about US military actions exacerbating tensions, while Algeria emphasized the need for restraint to avoid further escalation.
India vehemently denied allegations of interfering in Canadian elections, labeling them as "baseless" and emphasizing that the core issue was Canada's meddling in India's internal affairs. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal dismissed the claims and highlighted that India's policy is non-interference in the democratic processes of other nations, contrasting it with Canada's alleged interference in India's internal matters.
The Canadian federal commission, primarily tasked with investigating possible interference by China, Russia, and other entities in their elections, reportedly included allegations of Indian meddling. However, Jaiswal reiterated India's stance that it does not engage in such activities and instead accused Canada of interfering in Indian affairs.
Tensions between India and Canada escalated following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations in September regarding Indian involvement in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India denounced Trudeau's claims as baseless and accused Canada of providing a platform for Khalistani extremists targeting India, particularly highlighting Nijjar's designation as a terrorist in 2020.
India maintained that its main concern with Canada remains the space given to separatists, terrorists, and anti-India elements within Canada, underscoring the ongoing diplomatic strain between the two nations.
Pakistan prepares for an election marked by militant attacks, economic woes, and political divisions, with analysts foreseeing no clear victor. The competition primarily involves candidates aligned with imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) led by thrice-premier Nawaz Sharif, seen as the frontrunner. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, presents a strong challenge.
Analysts suggest that Pakistan's influential military could sway the outcome, despite its claims of non-interference in politics. Imran Khan accuses the military of targeting his party, while opponents claim the generals support Sharif. This election sees a reversal from 2018, with Khan previously backed by the military and Sharif facing corruption charges.
The outcome is uncertain, and instability looms if no party secures a clear majority. Economic challenges await the next government, including securing a new IMF bailout as the current program ends in March.
Unofficial results are expected soon after polls close, with smaller parties potentially pivotal in forming a government requiring 169 seats in the 336-member National Assembly. Directly elected members number 266, while 70 reserved seats are allocated based on party performance, with 60 for women and 10 for non-Muslims. Independents, many supported by Khan, hold sway, with their allegiance likely to shape post-election dynamics. Khan has vowed his candidates won't support Sharif or Bhutto Zardari.
The election's aftermath hinges on coalition-building and navigating Pakistan's multifaceted challenges, underscoring the significance of smaller parties and independent candidates in shaping the political landscape.
Veteran political leader Sharad Pawar, in a contentious battle with his nephew Ajit Pawar over the name and symbol of the party he founded, has faced defeat. The Election Commission has favored Ajit Pawar's faction within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), attributing the decision to the faction's larger numerical strength, holding a majority of the party's 53 MLAs in the Maharashtra Assembly.
This outcome grants Ajit Pawar's faction control over the party's assets and financial accounts, potentially imposing significant financial constraints on the opposing faction led by Sharad Pawar. With only 12 MLAs supporting Sharad Pawar, while 41 stand with Ajit Pawar, the latter's alliance with the BJP-Eknath Shinde coalition further solidifies his position.
Sharad Pawar's faction has been instructed to choose a new name and symbol for their faction ahead of the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections, with a deadline set by the Election Commission for February 7.
Ajit Pawar's actions, including his alignment with the BJP last year, have underscored his aspirations for power within the party, leading to a public split and subsequent struggle for control. Despite objections from the Sharad Pawar faction, Ajit Pawar has accepted the decision "with humility," while critics decry the perceived erosion of democratic principles within the party.
US senators unveiled a USD 118 billion package combining border enforcement measures with vital wartime aid for Ukraine, Israel, and other US allies, aiming to address multiple global challenges. The proposal, a crucial opportunity for President Joe Biden to bolster Ukraine's defense, faces skepticism from Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson.
With ongoing delays in approving USD 60 billion in Ukraine aid, the US has temporarily halted ammunition and missile shipments to Kyiv, leaving Ukrainian forces at a disadvantage against Russia's invasion.
Apart from aiding Ukraine, the package allocates USD 14 billion in military assistance to Israel, nearly USD 5 billion to allies in the Asia-Pacific region, and humanitarian aid for conflict-affected civilians in Ukraine and Gaza.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell jointly support the bill, recognizing its significance for national security and foreign policy objectives.
The bill's inclusion of border policy changes, at the insistence of McConnell, aims to address immigration challenges alongside national security funding. However, House Republicans, led by Johnson, have expressed reservations about certain aspects of the proposed measures, emphasizing the need for stringent border security.
The border proposal, negotiated over months, seeks to overhaul the asylum system with tougher enforcement measures. If daily illegal border crossings exceed certain thresholds, authorities would have the power to swiftly expel migrants without the opportunity to claim asylum.
President Biden, indicating support for the bill, intends to utilize this expulsion authority to manage border influxes effectively. Nevertheless, the bill's tougher asylum standards have raised concerns among progressive and Hispanic lawmakers within the Democratic Party, potentially complicating its passage.
Meanwhile, the USD 14 billion earmarked for military support to Israel could face opposition from some Democrats, including Senator Bernie Sanders, who aims to reduce funding for offensive weaponry.
Despite these challenges, Senate appropriators continue to negotiate other components of the package, such as investments in defense manufacturing and humanitarian assistance.
While Senator Lindsey Graham suggests slowing down the bill's progression, bipartisan support is crucial to navigate through the complexities of divided government and ensure effective policymaking in the face of global threats and challenges.
Buckingham Palace announced on Monday that Britain's King Charles, 75, has been diagnosed with cancer, prompting him to postpone public-facing duties. This revelation follows a recent hospital stay last month, during which he underwent a corrective procedure for an enlarged prostate. While undergoing treatment for this issue, doctors identified a separate concern which subsequent tests confirmed as cancer.
The palace's statement highlighted that King Charles has commenced a schedule of regular treatments, necessitating the postponement of his public engagements. Despite this setback, he remains committed to fulfilling his State obligations and official paperwork during this time. The King expressed gratitude towards his medical team for their swift intervention, made possible due to the prior hospitalization for his prostate condition.
Remaining optimistic about his treatment, King Charles is eager to resume full public duty at the earliest opportunity. Despite the challenges posed by his diagnosis, he maintains a positive outlook and looks forward to returning to his responsibilities as soon as his health allows.
The Uttarakhand Assembly is set to introduce legislation on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) today, with Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami spearheading the initiative. Dhami emphasized that the proposed UCC aims to benefit all sections of society and aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of 'Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas' and 'Ek Bharat, Sreshtha Bharat.'
The government-appointed panel, led by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, has meticulously drafted a comprehensive report spanning four volumes and totaling 749 pages. The panel extensively gathered feedback, receiving 2.33 lakh pieces of written input online and organizing over 70 public forums, engaging with approximately 60,000 individuals to inform the draft.
Key proposals in the UCC include a ban on polygamy and child marriage, standardization of the marriageable age for girls across all faiths, and a uniform divorce process. These recommendations aim to promote gender equality and social harmony and will be deliberated upon during the special four-day assembly session, which commenced yesterday and will continue until Thursday.
The UCC draft encompasses various aspects of civil life, including inheritance rights, mandatory marriage registration, and an elevated marriageable age for girls to facilitate their education before marriage. Additionally, couples failing to register their marriages will be ineligible for government benefits, emphasizing the importance of legal documentation.
While the specifics of the draft remain undisclosed, reports suggest that it will establish a legal framework covering marriage, divorce, land, property, and inheritance laws, irrespective of religious affiliations. If enacted, Uttarakhand will become the first state in post-Independence India to adopt the UCC, following in the footsteps of Goa, where it has been operational since the Portuguese colonial era.
Renowned Tamil actor Vijay has made a significant announcement, revealing his entry into politics by launching a new political party named "Tamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam." He declared his intention to contest the 2026 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, emphasizing his belief that politics is a sacred form of public service rather than merely a profession.
Vijay's decision to enter politics has sparked widespread celebrations among his fans, who have eagerly awaited this move. Speculations had been circulating for some time about the actor's potential venture into politics, given Tamil Nadu's history of actors transitioning from cinema to political roles, such as the late M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa.
The newly formed "Tamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam," loosely translated as "Tamil Nadu Victory Party," aims to actively engage in public service and represent the interests of the people. Vijay clarified that his party will not participate in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and will remain neutral in its approach.
Despite his political commitments, Vijay affirmed his dedication to completing his current film projects without compromising his party responsibilities. He expressed gratitude towards the people of Tamil Nadu for their support and pledged to wholeheartedly engage in serving their needs through his political endeavors.
The UK's Opposition Labour Party is undergoing a strategic overhaul of its outreach efforts to British Indians, following concerns over a decline in support from the country's largest ethnic minority group, as reported by media outlets.
British Indians constitute the largest Asian ethnic group and the largest non-white ethnic group in the UK, comprising 3.1 per cent of the population, according to the 2021 UK census. The Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, has initiated several measures to re-engage with British Indians. These efforts include appointing two community outreach volunteers, restructuring the Labour Friends of India group, and organizing a trip to India for two senior shadow ministers.
Evidence suggests a significant decline in Labour's support among British Indians. In 2010, 61 per cent of British Indians supported Labour, but by 2019, this figure had plummeted to just 30 per cent. Labour leaders are apprehensive that the potential ascension of Rishi Sunak as Britain's first Hindu Prime Minister could exacerbate this trend.
Recent focus groups conducted among first-, second-, and third-generation Indians underscore the challenges facing Labour. Participants noted Sunak's position as a pivotal moment for British Indians, with observations about his efforts to integrate Indian traditions into the UK's political landscape.
Labour acknowledges the need to address this shift in support, with party officials acknowledging a historical tendency to take Indian voters for granted. The party is implementing measures to rectify this, including establishing a new group called Labour Indians to facilitate community events and targeted social media engagement.
Additionally, the party has hired two volunteers to collaborate with Labour Indians, with a focus on briefing parliamentary candidates on issues relevant to India. Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy and Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds are embarking on a five-day trip to Delhi and Mumbai to underscore the party's commitment to engaging with Indian interests.
Experts attribute the decline in Labour's support among British Indians to socioeconomic and religious factors. As British Indians have experienced economic growth, survey data indicates a shift towards more conservative attitudes. Furthermore, Labour's stance on issues such as Kashmir, particularly under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, has alienated some Indian Hindus who align more closely with the Conservative Party.
Overall, Labour's efforts to re-engage with British Indians reflect a recognition of the shifting dynamics within this demographic and the party's commitment to addressing these challenges.